CDC Ramps Up Romaine Warnings After E. Coli Death

So far, 121 illnesses have been reported across 25 states.

A nationwide outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce has now claimed a life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The death, reported from California, is the first known fatality in an outbreak that has infected over 120 people across 25 states, the CDC said. The agency has pinned the outbreak on contaminated romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, region.

The CDC announced the outbreak on April 10, and has since warned consumers not to eat the leafy green unless they can definitively determine that it was not grown in or near Yuma. 

The agency is also advising restaurants and retailers not to “serve or sell” any romaine from that area.

That includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, as well as chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce, the CDC said.

Since April 27, the date of the CDC’s last update, 23 additional people have been infected with the bacteria, and cases have been reported in three new states ― Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah.

The most recent of the illnesses began on April 21. The CDC noted there may be a lag time of two to three weeks from the time a person becomes ill with E. coli to when that illness is reported to federal officials.

Laboratory testing in April determined that the strain of deadly E. coli behind the outbreak, known as O157:H7, produces a toxin known to cause more severe illness, which could explain the high hospitalization rate, the CDC said.

Infection from E. coli typically manifests within two to eight days after a person swallows the germ, the agency said. Those infected may develop diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Some also develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, with symptoms ranging from intense fatigue to decreased frequency of urination. 

The latest public health emergency follows an earlier E. coli outbreak linked to romaine reported earlier this year. That outbreak, which caused 24 illnesses across 15 states, was officially declared over in January.